iron war

Iron War: One of the Greatest Endurance Stories Ever!

It was on October 14, 1989 in Kona when Mark Allen defeated Dave Scott after six unsuccessful attempts earlier, in one of the most exciting races ever run in Iron Man history. So popular, that later, the race itself came to be known as Iron War.

Mark Allen and Dave Scott were one of the best long-distance triathletes in the world but who was better was to be decided by this Ironman World Championship. So, what went behind this heart pumping triathlon?

As per Dave Scott he says, having competed with Mark Allen before, he had a pretty good idea that this race was going to be different as he was not at all in good shape. Dave Scott explains:

“In early August I did Ironman Japan and then rushed home so I could be there when my son Ryan was born. It was a busy couple of weeks and I did no workout of any kind. It was only when a friend reminded me of the upcoming championship; I went out for a run and realised how badly I had trashed my body.”

On the other hand, having been failed six times before and finishing second to Dave Scott, people had started commenting Mark that on any given day he could beat anyone in the world in any race, but he was just not cut out for this one and there was something about it which was not him. Mark Allen started thinking the same, somewhere.

Prior to his win, Mark Allen was really nervous of the race as well as Dave Scott on a psychological level. But keeping his anxiety in control he was determined to focus on developing strength and not worrying about the heat, the wind or Dave Scott.


Mark Allen went to New Zealand that winter and trained with Scott Molina and Erin Baker.

“All I had to do was swim, bike and run and we put together these incredible weeks of training that were like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It was getting me stronger without burning me out, and I realised that I’d not been able to get my body ready the way I needed to in the past”

Mark Allen confessed that he always thought that he was training as hard as he could but it was largely in context of how he lived his life. He had always been busy with a million stuff to do and it was only much later that he realised that all of that stuff was actually getting in the way of doing the training he would be capable of, only if he simplified things.

Mark Allen had always watched Dave Scott flourishing and blossoming whenever he tightened up his laces and Mark wanted to tap into that level of strength. Mark was aware that Dave knew how to race it, how to pace it efficiently, something what Mark Allen didn’t.

“I knew that I couldn’t be Dave, I had to be me. What I concentrated on was how to get the most of myself on the day that counted the most and what strategy was I going to use to go after Dave.”

Dave recollected that a couple of times during the triathlon, when he wasn’t feeling that great and had slowed a little, he wanted Mark to come up on him so that he could figure out his body language, how hard he was breathing and if he was getting fatigued, so that Dave could tackle him accordingly. But strangely, this time Mark was different.


Alternatively, Mark Allen had some blood blisters on his feet and they had popped and thought that he just couldn’t keep going and couldn’t hold the pace but also knew if he gave Dave the slightest opening, he would pounce on it immediately and the balance would be gone. The word ‘win’ rose up in his mind and he realised he just couldn’t give up this time.

“You have to train yourself to go through those moments when you have fear when you have to face yourself and the possibility that you’re not going to achieve your goal. So while I’m having this battle with Dave, I’m also having one with myself; I know I can win, alternating with, I’m not sure I can put my foot down again.”

In the middle of the marathon, at about mile 13, Mark Allen was right on par with Dave Scott, way ahead of everybody else and knew one of them was going to win it. Their nearest competitor was about three miles behind! Now, isn’t that awe-inspiring? Let’s take a look at some real moments of the implausible race:

There was a time when Mark Allen got really tired and thought to himself that he had lost it again the seventh time and then suddenly a thought he had read in a magazine by a 109-year-old Indian Shaman came to his mind which read, “I’m happy to just be alive”, and somehow Mark Allen says that he had a smile on his face and it started to give him strength. Mark Allen further elucidates:

“I realised I’m happy to be here next to this guy nobody else is. I just felt like I was gaining energy from this image of that Indian Shaman and I just got stronger and stronger from that point on.”

Mark Allen ran the last three-quarters of a mile with the biggest smile on his face and tears of joy running down his face as he knew he has finally got there.

Mark Allen completed the race in eight hours, nine minutes and fifteen seconds and won by thirty-three seconds from Dave Scott. And as Mark Allen rightfully puts it,

“You’ll never know it’s a great race in the moment. It’s only when you reflect back on it that you can really assess it.”

iron war

Though they didn’t realise but both had shattered their own previous records. Mark Allen was inducted into the Ironman Hall of Fame in 1997. Both Mark Allen and Dave Scott are active coaches today.